Hartford, CT

Tactics Used

Buyer Arrests
Reverse stings
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Web stings
License suspension

Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in Hartford, including homicide of prostituted women and infants endangered during prostitution transactions.  Historians have documented a thriving “red light” district in the 1800s and early 1900s, illegal but tolerated and connected to a variety of crimes and other problems such as infectious disease.

The city has a relatively long history of addressing demand for commercial sex.  The Hartford Police Department began conducting reverse stings in 1980, and routinely both seize the vehicles and publicize the identities of arrested sex buyers. In July 2015, for example, HPD officers conducted a street-level reversal using a female police decoy. In an interview with WVIT-TV following the investigation, a HPD representative commented that anti-prostitution efforts have at times been launched in city areas where other recent violent crimes were reported, to not only reduce commercial sex activity but also gather information from arrestees. He noted:

“Rarely do we do any of these operations where they’re not in the area of a recent homicide. Every person we bring in, we will debrief and try to find out any information we can on recent shootings, homicides, robberies, burglaries, anything. I can think of a few homicides in recent years that we’ve gotten valuable information to move forward with an arrest through one of these prostitution details.”

The city first launched its first john school in 2000. In addition to attending the john school, men processed through the Community Court may also have “dear john letters” sent to their homes and be required to perform community service.

John Protocol

The current john school program in Hartford is named “The John Protocol” and is operated by the Community Court (State of Connecticut, Judicial Branchand) its key partner, AIDS Project Hartford.    In addition to handling prostitution cases within the Hartford Judicial District, the Community Court also presides over cases of those who are charged with soliciting prostitutes for their services.  The Community Court developed the “John Protocol” not only to punish the perpetrators, but also to educate them about the impact their behavior has on their health and the community.  The program is delivered in six sessions. Its main topics focus on individual and community level health consequences, and other negative consequences for individuals directly involved as well as to the broader community.  The protocol also requires 10 days up to community service.  An excerpt from a Community Court Newsletter describes the local version of a john school as follows:

“Throughout the years, one of the most consistent complaints from the community is street prostitution. For the most part, it is a drug-driven enterprise with numerous associated health, criminal and public-safety factors that fuel an exacerbating effect on the deterioration of neighborhoods. One of the primary problems behind this issue is the men who come here to solicit the prostitutes, known in common parlance as “johns.” The bottom line is solicitation of a prostitute is a crime and will be handled as such in Community Court. It is also an issue of public health and education. For those reasons, the Community Court has been working in collaboration with AIDS Project Hartford to develop a six-session program where each “john” must attend a one hour counseling session with APH Health Educator John Olivares once a week for six weeks at the Community Court. They must also submit to Sexually Transmitted Disease testing (HIV testing is voluntary for the participant). Since implementing this protocol in late 2009, the Community Court has not seen one recidivist from the protocol.”

Key Partners

  • Hartford Police Department
  • Community Court (State of Connecticut, Judicial Branch)
  • AIDS Project Hartford
  • End Demand Connecticut

Key Sources

State Connecticut
Type City
Population 124563
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